Making motivation simple

This business advice column speaks to the soulful side of business. It is designed for companies and individuals that want to excel, stand out, and realize ROWM: A Return on What Matters. It is based on the book from the business superhero The Profit Prophet. Please send your questions (which may be anonymous) to


Dear P2,

How can I get my employees to be motivated about what matters to me, which is being profitable?


Dear Motivator,

Motivation is a complex question for many.  Let’s make it simple.

The question is not really about motivation per se, but inspiration and productivity. Obviously, profitability depends upon revenue brought in and how much of it you can keep. To optimize profitability is to think about it holistically. One of the key components in the profit game is attracting and retaining the best talent. People join companies for any number of reasons — they may be inspired by the product, the leader, proximity to home, flexibility, a future or just need cash. Most people want to do their best when they begin a new job. Many have been continually burned in the past by bosses who don’t do what they say, don’t involve the employee or don’t say what matters to them. Eventually, good talent will leave if not tended to. Untended employees, like plants, will fade away or strangle others around them.

You want what matters to you to matter to them? Tend to what matters to them. Yes, people want to be heard, but they want to hear too. Are your employees informed about business goals and daily, weekly or monthly metrics, or do you keep secrets from them? Get them in the game. People enjoy games they participate in or can watch. Ask yourself, are you informed around what matters to them? If not, get in there. Most people want to have a voice, matter in some way or even make a difference that is aligned with your exact goals. Do you have structures for getting at that? Do you make promises and follow through by when you say you will? When employees think they matter to you, what matters to you will matter to them.